Snowbabies have become a Christmas tradition that is believed to have started in Europe during the 17th century. In England there is a celebration known as the Twelfth Night. The English believe this is the time when the three wisemen arrived in Bethlehem after the birth of Christ. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to Christ the baby. Snowbaby figurines were originally used as cake decorations that represented the Christ child and were made of marzipan and sprinkled with “snow” sugar. Around the same time in Germany, Christmas shoppers were traditionally given small sugar biscuits depicting the infant Jesus. These Snowbabies were originally intended as a sweet treat to eat but eventually customers started to use them instead as decorations for their Christmas trees.
By the late 1900's, these Snowbabies gained in popularity and manufacturers began to produce fine porcelain figurines depicting small childern usually dressed in a snowsuit shown riding sleds, skiing or otherwise frolicking in the snow. The manufacturing process involved pouring bisque into molds and then finishing the piece with a sprinkling of finely ground bisque to give the impression that the figurines had received a special dusting of “snow”. The snowbabies usually had delicately painted faces and sometimes the figurines were decorated in soft pastel colors.
Just as the snowbabies popularity started to wane before the turn of the century there was an unexpected boost that would increase their sales. In 1893, an Artic explorer named Robert Perry was on a quest to discover the North Pole and a figurine is said to have been created showing Admiral Perry and his fellow explorer, Dr. Frederick Cook, dressed in snowsuits and grasping a world globe between them. To further the story, while Perry was on his famous expedition into the Artic his wife, Josephine, gave birth to their daughter Marie. She was the first caucasion child to be born that far north. The native Eskimos in the region remarked about her pale white skin and she became known as Ah-poo-Mic-kaninny or the “snow baby”. With newspaper accounts of the birth and later Perry’s discovery of the North Pole in April 6, 1909, snowbabies once again became popular this time with American buyers.
During World War I manufacturing of Snowbabies stopped and unfortunately when production resumed afterwards the quality of the figurines was greatly compromised. Over the next few years the sales of snowbabies continued to decrease and finally with the start of World War II and the loss of European and Asian manufacturers the production of Snowbabies was discontinued.
Then in 1986 a Minnesota based company named Department 56 started a new line aptly named Snowbabies which featured 11 figurines designed and inspired by the original antique and vintage Snowbabies. Over the years the Department 56 Snowbabies line had proved to be very popular with collectors. Kristi Jensen Pierro, a Department 56 designer, usually started with a drawing. Her first drawings were inspired by her children and later they were designed and created for specific themes or special celebrations. Once the sketches are approved they are then made into a clay figure and further refined. When the final design is determined a mold is made of the clay figure and then sent into production. The Snowbabies line includes full sized figurines, water globes, picture frames, ornaments and even miniature figurines. Over the past decades licensed pieces have also been produced incorporating Disney and Sesame Street characters.
Start or add to your collection today! If you would like to see more pictures of the Snowbabies that we currently have in stock, just give us a call or send us a message today! We would be delighted to help you add to your collection or start a new family tradition!
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